Updated December 21, 2020

AFS was founded in 1947 out of a response to a global crisis by World War I and II American Field Service Ambulance Drivers. Responding quickly and with care in times of great need is in our DNA. AFSers are made for times like these.

No year has tested us more—we repatriated nearly 2,000 students and, as a result, faced unprecedented financial challenges. In true AFS spirit, volunteers, staff, supporters, and friends responded to the crisis by doing everything we could to move our mission forward.

As we navigate this pandemic, we are rebuilding and refocusing RIGHT NOW—not waiting until we can host and send students again.

Yet still, we were able to welcome 43 international students and send 45 Americans abroad on year programs—a remarkable feat and testament to the desire of US and international students to have these experiences.

In 2020, we launched innovative, virtual programs, some in partnership with the US Department of State sponsored programs. Quickly, it became clear that our innovation could—and would—impact thousands of lives in US communities—students, entire families, educators, volunteers, and others.

Like you, we look towards a brighter, post COVID-19 future and we have a new strategic plan in place. As we work towards becoming financially stable again, we will continue to innovate virtual learning opportunities, improve our technology, work differently with US educators and students, become a more diverse and inclusive organization, and engage our volunteers in new and needed ways.

As global citizens, we must continue to ‘walk together and talk together,’ and inspire more people to join us in creating a more just and peaceful world—like those featured in stories here.

We appreciate the ways you have reached out to us this year and hope we can continue to count on you as we work to rebuild. We thank you especially for sharing your stories and for your support.

Support for Students, Early Returnees, and Host Families

Returning home from an exchange program always comes with some challenges, like reverse culture shock and missing host communities. Host families often go through a similar transition and may feel a sense of loss as their students depart. We understand that coping with the distress caused by this pandemic and the abrupt end to our 2020 programs has made these readjustments even more difficult for students, new alumni, and host families.

That’s why we adapted the existing content and delivery of our Pre-Return Orientations for Hosted Students and Re-Entry Orientations for Students returning to the U.S. These orientations will continue to encourage and guide students to reflect on and grow from their intercultural journeys, before and after they return, but they will now be facilitated online by local volunteers and national staff. And, we added wellness tips and dedicated time and virtual space to process stress and disappointment students may be experiencing, as well as new ways to connect virtually with AFSers.

National Pre-Return Orientation webinars for hosted students took place weekly through April.

For Host Families whose students have already departed, we developed similar resources. This included a webinar with guided reflection activities and a short interview with our Mental Health Consultant, in which we discuss ways to help host families process the sudden departure of their students and cope with continued uncertainty. We are also offering additional support and resources to Host Families whose students have not yet departed.

As these opportunities are meant only for AFS students, returnees/alumni, and host families, we will not share registration links publicly. Invitations to register to these local and national online events were sent from volunteers and/or staff to students and families.

More opportunities to continue intercultural learning online and connect virtually with AFSers around the world are in progress. We know fostering global citizenship and connections across cultures are more important than ever.


Here you will find trusted sources of recommended precautions and actions, as well as advice on coping with stress.